Who are the favourites for the World Championships time trials in Flanders?

From Fillippo Ganna, to Wout Van Aert, Annemiek van Vleuten and Marlen Reusser - these are the big names racing in Belgium

Who are the favourites for the World Championships TT
(Image credit: Getty )

The World Championships time trial is one of the most prestigious titles on the cycling calendar, alongside the Olympic TT, but who are the favourites for this year’s race?

Being held in Flanders, Belgium this year, both the men’s and the women’s races are wide open.

With the men’s event taking place on Sunday (September 19) followed by the women the next day, the TTs kick off a thrilling week of racing in Flanders, which culminates with the elite road races the following weekend. 

>>> Road World Championships 2021: men’s elite individual time trial start list

The Olympic time trials in Tokyo were a thrilling spectacle on a very challenging course around the Fuji International Speedway, and gave some insight into who may be in form heading towards the Worlds, but with a number of high-profile events later in the summer, the order of favourites may have been shaken up.

We take a look at a few of the favourites from both the men’s and women’s TTs: 

Annemiek van Vleuten

Annemiek van Vleuten at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic time trial

Annemiek van Vleuten at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic time trial

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Dutch superstar Van Vleuten is one of the most dominant riders in the cycling world, as year after year she demonstrates her versatility on a variety of terrain.

At 38-years-old, Van Vleuten is still at the top of the sport, earlier this year winning silver in the Olympic road race and then following up with a dominant performance in the TT to win gold, almost a minute ahead of her nearest rival. 

Van Vleuten hasn’t raced a TT since Tokyo, as she opted to skip the European Championships time trial to focus on the road race. 

But she will be back on her Canyon Speedmax in Flanders, as she hopes to add a third world time trial title to her palmarès, and with reigning champion Anna van der Breggen opting to skip the TT, Van Vleuten is the clear favourite.

Marlen Reusser

Marlen Reusser wins the elite women's TT at the 2021 European Championships

Marlen Reusser wins the elite women's TT at the 2021 European Championships

(Image credit: Justin Setterfield/Getty Images)

Perhaps not a name many people will have been familiar with before 2021, but the Swiss rider has very quickly become one of the most intimidating time triallists in the peloton. 

Having previously won the Swiss National Championships and the European Championships TTs back in 2019, this year Reusser has emerged as the best of the TT specialists, taking her third national title, silver in the Olympics, and then claiming European title for a second time, putting 19 seconds into silver medallist Ellen van Dijk.

While the TTs in recent years have been dominated by the all-rounders like Van der Breggen and Van Vleuten, with Reusser’s string of results we could see the emergence of the TT specialist in the women’s peloton. 

Filippo Ganna 

Filippo Ganna at the 2021 Giro d'Italia

Filippo Ganna at the 2021 Giro d'Italia

(Image credit: Tim De Waele/Getty Images)

Italian powerhouse Filippo Ganna is the reigning champion in the TT and is often utterly devastating against the clock. 

But this year we’ve seen a slightly less dominant version of the 25-year-old, as he has split his attention across disciplines.

While Ganna did target the Olympic TT in Tokyo, the climbing course wasn’t well suited to his absolute power numbers, so he also banked on medalling on the track with the Italian team pursuit squad.

It was a worthwhile compromise, as Ganna was the star rider in the TP, helping his nation beat Denmark to gold in a nail-biting final.

Aside from his Olympic success, Ganna has been mixed in time trials out on the road, dominating in the early season, including victory in both TTs at the Giro d’Italia, but since slipping back little against his rivals. 

>>>   Road World Championships 2021: women’s individual time trial start list

In the European Championships TT, a pan-flat course that looked perfectly suited to Ganna, he was only able to take the silver medal, which suggests he may not be on the top of his game this late in the season, after already targeting the Giro and the Olympics.

But with two weeks between that last major event and the Worlds, can Ganna find those much needed watts he needs to retain his title?

Stefan Küng 

Heart-break for Stefan Küng

(Image credit: Getty )

By far Ganna’s biggest threat is Stefan Küng, the Swiss TT specialist who has been making major gains against the clock in recent seasons. 

But a major victory for Küng has often eluded him, as he has yet to take a TT win in a Grand Tour, until last year’s European Championships TT appeared to have been a major turning point.

This year, Küng has stacked up four TT wins, including the 2021 European Championships where he convincingly knocked Ganna into second place against the odds. 

With the 27-year-old able to put 10 seconds into Ganna on a flat course, that could be a very ominous sign of what’s to come from Küng this weekend, and with two consecutive bronze medals in the Worlds, the rainbow bands could follow the European flag. 

Remco Evenepoel 

Remco Evenepoel riding the time trial on stage two of the Benelux Tour

Remco Evenepoel riding the time trial on stage two of the Benelux Tour

(Image credit: Getty Images)

One rider who couldn’t be more physically different from powerhouses Küng and Ganna, is Remco Evenepoel. 

The Belgian phenomenon is small in stature, but packs a huge punch against the clock.

As a potential future Grand Tour contender, Evenepoel utilises his remarkable aerodynamic position on the bike with his powerful engine to compete with some of the best riders against the clock, whatever the terrain.

That was most clearly demonstrated in the European Championships, where he stayed in touch with the times of Ganna and Küng, only to slip back in the second half of the course, eventually finishing just seven seconds down on Ganna and 15 seconds down on Küng, who the course clearly favoured.  

Wout van Aert 

Wout van Aert at the 2021 Tour of Britain

Wout van Aert at the 2021 Tour of Britain

(Image credit: Harry Trump/Getty Images)

There appears to be nothing beyond the powers of Wout van Aert.

From cyclocross, to bunch sprints, mountain stages and time trials, the Belgian super-talent seems to be able to turn his attention to any discipline and dominate.

Against the clock, Van Aert has six career victories, most notably the final time trial in the 2021 Tour de France, comfortably beating the likes of Küng and race leader Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates). 

Van Aert hasn’t raced against the clock that much in the latter part of the season, his last individual test was the Olympic TT where he finished sixth, as he instead appears to be honing his skills ready for the road race on the final day of the Worlds, but in his current form Van Aert is a medal contender and the very least, and could even be capable of the victory in his home World Championships.  

Alex Ballinger
Alex Ballinger

Alex is the digital news editor for CyclingWeekly.com. After gaining experience in local newsrooms, national newspapers and in digital journalism, Alex found his calling in cycling, first as a reporter and now as news editor responsible for Cycling Weekly's online news output.

Since pro cycling first captured his heart during the 2010 Tour de France (specifically the Contador-Schleck battle) and joining CW in 2018, Alex has covered three Tours de France, multiple editions of the Tour of Britain, and the World Championships, while both writing and video presenting for Cycling Weekly. He also specialises in fitness writing, often throwing himself into the deep end to help readers improve their own power numbers. 

Away from journalism, Alex is a national level time triallist, avid gamer, and can usually be found buried in an eclectic selection of books.